What Does an Accountant Do?

What does an accountant do aside from crunching numbers? Most accountants do a wide range of finance-related tasks, all of which involve figures and statistics. Math might be at the core of an accountant’s job, but ensuring that a person’s or an organization’s financial documents are accurate is generally the primary duty of the accounting professional. An accountant’s specialization and specific job sector will determine her/his duties and what she/he does daily. While accounting jobs may fall under varying categories (see the U.S. Department of Labor handbook for types of accountants, such as public, forensics, management, government accountants, or even sports accounting), most accountants perform a common core of duties.

Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping refers to the job of maintaining a company’s financial records, and it is an essential duty of almost every accountant. The work involves handling accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, creating balance sheets, and doing other tasks relating to credits and debits. Bookkeepers keep track of how much money an organization earns and how much it spends and owes. These numbers are very important for owners because miscalculations can put a company out of business, so accountants must be extremely detail-oriented. A high level of proficiency in math and statistics is also required for efficient on-the-job performance because the volume of data to be analyzed is usually high, and complex formulas may have to be used to calculate specific figures.

Tax Preparation

According to US News and World Report, preparing taxes is another major duty of an accountant. In addition to figuring out how much a person or company owes to the government in taxes and preparing the actual tax returns, accountants must also make sure that taxes are filed properly and on time so that no legal penalties are incurred. Accountants may also develop strategies for decreasing the amount of taxes owed as long as they are ethical and compliant with the law. Tax accountants work for individuals, businesses, and governmental organizations.

Auditing

Many businesses hire auditors to monitor monetary resources. Auditors not only check for fraud and the intentional misuse of company funds, but they also come up with methods to reduce the unintentional wasting of resources. More experienced accountants may act as financial advisors to company executives by offering strategies to cut costs and, in turn, gain more profit.

General Administrative Work

At the end of the day, every accountant participates in basic organizational and administrative duties. Collecting paper documents and digital records, sorting paper documents and digitized databases, filing, typing up reports, creating financial spreadsheets, printing, and copying make up the bulk of this type of work.

Accountants comprise the backbone of every business, whether it be a restaurant, non-profit organization, or Fortune 500 corporation. Without proper financial management, any business is susceptible to quick and imminent failure. Accountants are keen, meticulous, and number-oriented individuals who are good at keeping track of small details. If you are considering a career in accounting, it is helpful to be aware of both what an accountant does and the skills and knowledge required to perform the duties of the job, whether you hope to run an independent tax preparation business or work for the government as an auditor.

For more information, see Ten Best Online Accounting Schools.